Last July, Valentino Rossi finished the Andalucia Jerez MotoGP race in a time of 41m 28.212s.

It was good enough for third place, 5.5s behind race winner Fabio Quartararo.

On Sunday, Rossi - who continues to have a Factory-spec Yamaha after switching from Monster to Petronas this year - completed the same 25-lap distance, at the same Spanish track, in a near-identical 41m 28.333s.

But the relentless improvements in MotoGP meant that instead of spraying champagne again, the Italian was left down in 17th place, a massive 22.7s from race winner Jack Miller.

Rossi was unable to explain exactly why he had been far less competitive than nine months ago, given the step forward in pace by the other Yamahas on a day when the track temp was 18 degrees lower than last July.

Fabio Quartararo was leading the race until arm pump issues while Franco Morbidelli took Petronas' first podium of the season on the older A-Spec bike. Maverick Vinales finished seventh, but was 16sec quicker than his second place last year.

"We try the bike like last year, it is not exactly like last year but on paper it just had to be a bit better, but for some reason I suffered more," he said. "Also the tyres from last year are more or less the same but we are not able to find the same grip.

"Also for us it is a question mark [why] but it is true that in MotoGP everything changes very quickly from one year to the other. A lot of performance changes and everybody tries to make things better, but sometimes it is not possible."

After qualifying just 17th for the second event in a row, as he continues to struggle with rear tyre grip, Rossi dropped as low as 19th in the early laps.

The Doctor then worked his way to 16th by the middle stages, before a mistake saw him hand the place to younger brother Luca Marini.

"At a certain moment I was with the two KTMs, Petrucci and Lecuona especially, but when I tried to overtake Lecuona I went wide and I also lost a position to my brother," Rossi said.

"I could not take any points. It was difficult and for sure these are not the positions we expected. But we were struggling all weekend and also in the race I was not fast enough.

"It has been a difficult start [to the season] because I am not fast enough. We have a problem with the setting of the bike and I am not able to ride at the maximum.

"We have to find the technical way to improve this type of problem and try to be stronger and bring the bike to the limit. We will see [at the Monday test] if we can make the bike better.

"We have to be optimistic and keep the motivation high and do everything possible to be stronger."

Rossi's team-mate Franco Morbidelli took Petronas Yamaha's first podium of the season with third place on Sunday, riding the older A-Spec bike.

 

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